Top Newsmakers, No 8: The Roaring 20s


Top 10 Newsmakers“To be young is to be sad,” the song goes.

The lyricist obviously didn’t play professional golf in 2010.

Fifteen PGA Tour events were won by players in their 20s this past season, from Rory McIlroy at the Quail Hollow Championship two days before turning 21 to Justin Rose capturing two titles prior to hitting 30.

On the European Tour, Matteo Manassero became the youngest ever winner at 17 years, 188 days. The Italian finished 31st on the season-ending money list with $1.17 million and earned Rookie of the Year honors.

The brothers Molinari, meanwhile, helped Europe reclaim the Ryder Cup. Edoardo (29) also won the Scottish Open and Johnnie Walker Championship, while Francesco (27) took top prize at the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Nowhere, however, was 20-something dominance more apparent than on the LPGA, where 20 of the 24 tournaments were won by players born in the ‘80s.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy made noise this year with an impressive win at Quail Hollow. (Getty Images)

In 2010, to be young was to be very happy – and quite wealthy.

Even those yutes (thank you, Joe Pesci), who didn’t win still garnered plenty of notoriety and plenty of cash.

Jeff Overton (27) became the first player to ever qualify for the U.S. Ryder Cup team without winning an event. He also finished 12th on the money list with over $3.4 million.

Rickie Fowler (21) also made the Ryder Cup team, as a captain’s pick, and made more than $2.8 million without picking up a trophy; though, he did pick up the Tour's Rookie of the Year award.

Both Overton and Fowler made their mark at Celtic Manor as well, with Overton’s enthusiastic, “Boom, baby” performance and Fowler’s gutsy finish in singles.

In a year in which Tiger Woods, soon to be 35, endured hardships both on and off the course, and failed to win for the first time in his professional career, it was the younger set who took advantage.

Players like Anthony Kim (25), Adam Scott (29) and Camilo Villegas (28) continued to show their prowess, adding to their trophy cases, while players like Derek Lamely (29) and Jason Day (23) won for the first time on Tour.

Bill Haas (28) and the aforementioned Rose (29) not only earned their maiden Tour titles in 2010, but added an additional victory for good measure. Haas was the first 20-something to win, at the Bob Hope Classic in January and then garnered win No. 2 at the Viking Classic in October.

Rose, who turned 30 on July 30, exited his 20s in style, winning a pair of prestigious events: the Memorial Tournament and the AT&T National.

Hunter Mahan (28) was also a multiple winner, at the Phoenix Open and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

And even though a pair of 59s were recorded on Tour this season by a pair of veterans, an 18-year-old, Ryo Ishikawa, fired 58 on the Japan PGA Tour. And the round of the year may well have belonged to a 20-year-old.

Northern Ireland’s McIlroy roared to his first PGA Tour victory with a brilliant, eight-birdie, one-eagle, 10-under 62 in the final round of the Quail Hollow Championship. The finish was good enough for a new Quail Hollow course record and a four-stroke triumph over Masters champion Phil Mickelson.

Speaking of major champions, aside from Mickelson, none of the winners was more than 30 years old.

Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell (30) took the U.S. Open, South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen (27) routed the field in the Open Championship at St. Andrews, and Germany’s Martin Kaymer (26) prevailed in a playoff over Bubba Watson at the PGA Championship.

Watson may have been a relatively old 31 for most of the year, but he also became a first-time winner on Tour at the Traveler’s Championship.

Dustin Johnson won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for the second consecutive season and nearly won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach while 25, and captured the BMW Championship and nearly the PGA Championship while 26.

Of course, there is always some youthful impact each season, on every tour, but things may be different this time around.

For the remainder of the year, is counting down the Top 10 Newsmakers of 2010. For a list of the complete top 10 and the scheduled release dates, click here.

“I think the takeaway on the competition side of 2010, more than anything else, was the tremendous interest in young players coming up,” Tim Finchem said during his December 'State of the Tour' address. “I’ve never in my tenure seen so much buzz and interest about rookies and young players creating exciting performances.'

On the LPGA, every top-ranked player not named Cristie Kerr is in their 20s. In Europe, many of the world’s best – Kaymer and McIlroy included – have elected to primarily play their home tour. And in the States, there is a obvious lack of presence on the top of leaderboards by Woods.

Kids nowadays don’t seem to be intimidated by Woods, nor do they seem fearful of winning, as evidenced by the multiple multiple champions in their 20s.

It wasn’t long ago that we were trumpeting the triumphs of those in their 40s on Tour, but only three players in that age group won in 2010 – Ernie Els (40), Jim Furyk (40) and Rocco Mediate (47) [Mickelson was 39 when he won the Masters].

Granted, Els won twice and Furyk was the Tour’s Player of the Year, but the year’s biggest stories belonged to those born about the time these two were hitting puberty.

This year was about those who won majors and those who blew them, those who garnered international fame and those who gained a bit of infamy, those who won and those who didn’t on the PGA Tour, and just about everyone with an LPGA card.

The year 2010 was about the Roaring 20s.